President’s Award Winner – Dr Turi King

At the Discovering Excellence Awards, held on 10 November, we celebrated some of the most innovative, successful and talented people working here at the University.

Dr Turi King, Professor Paul Boyle and Lukwesa BurakThe President’s Award honours an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the University and higher education above and beyond their professional role. In her twenty years at the University of Leicester, alongside her research, Dr Turi King has made huge advances in the recognition of her field, recognition of the University of Leicester and the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach to research.

After graduating from the University of Cambridge in Archaeology and Anthropology, Turi arrived at the University on a University of Leicester Scholarship, studying MSc Molecular Genetics and gaining a distinction. Turi went on to carry out her doctoral research on the link between surnames and genetics and Sir Alec Jefferys, the inventor of DNA fingerprinting, was on her PhD panel. Her PhD won the School of Biological Sciences PhD Prize and she was asked to give a Doctoral Inaugural Lecture.  More recently, Turi has been responsible for leading the genetic analysis in the King Richard III case, which has enabled one of the most famous discoveries in the University’s history, the identification of King Richard III’s remains. All of Turi’s research is interdisciplinary, combining both her own and others’ expertise in the fields of genetics, history, archaeology and forensics.

The groundbreaking discovery of the mortal remains of one of history’s most infamous rulers brought an increased global presence for Leicester and the University of Leicester as well as archeological and genetic sciences.  While Turi has been involved in public engagement since the start of her PhD, Turi realised that the huge public interest in the Richard III project provided an opportunity to explain the science and interdisciplinary working to much wider audiences. Turi has spoken about the discovery of the King’s remains, and the science behind it, at over 200 events including giving the Queen’s Lecture 2016 for the British Council in Berlin, speaking at a Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill, the first TEDx Leicester Lecture in 2016 and numerous TV, radio and press interviews.

On receiving the award, Turi said: “The importance of embedding public engagement within academic institutions is now being recognized. There are now more than a dozen universities in the U.K. who have Professors for Public Engagement or Understanding in Science or other. And these universities are not just the ones you might expect, such as the Russell Group universities but the post-1992 universities also. So I’m absolutely delighted to have been given some recognition for the work I have been carrying out and the support I’ve been given by other members of the university”.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Paul Boyle added “Turi has an innovative approach to multi-disciplinary research and a real determination to showcase pioneering academic ideas to the public at large. Her work is the embodiment of our values and it is a privilege to count Turi amongst the many members of staff who make our University a great place to discover, innovate and learn”.

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